Summary: Biblical Peacemaking is to be lived out in all of life.
Kickball and Peacemaking Pastor Bruce Hamsher
I still remember today what recess felt like when I was in the third grade. That year the game was kickball. More pointedly, I remember the awesome red ball we used. It was the kind of ball which was somewhat solid, yet spongy enough that when it hit that sweet spot on your foot, it seemed to soar in the air for a mile. I also vividly remember the classmate who never thought he was out. (You probably remember this guy too. Every class had one.) The play didn’t even have to be close, but regardless, he would dispute the call if he was out. After weeks of this behavior, another classmate and I decided that it was time for us to become the teachers, so we made up our own lesson plan to teach this guy a lesson. Thus, the push technique was applied. The push technique was done very quickly, succinctly and successfully. I engaged the whiner in a conversation while my buddy slowly walked behind him and proceeded to get down on all fours. Once he was in place, I gave a quick push and watched as he tumbled backward over my accomplice’s back and onto the ground. We had a good laugh…until he started writhing around on the ground in pain. His cries and groans caught the attention of the teacher on duty and our laughs quickly turned to concern and to that “oh, no” feeling deep in the pit of one’s stomach. As we weren’t able to go out to recess for a while after this, we realized very quickly that our reactive, aggressive behavior certainly didn’t solve the problem. A peaceful solution wasn’t tried and things only got worse.
The Mennonite church is a historic peace church. One of our doctrines states that we do not go to war. We believe that the way of Jesus, is the way of peace. In our past, when a military draft has been enacted, many have chosen to give of their time and service in what we would consider to be possible “life giving” ways, rather than possible “life taking” ways. We grieve the reality that in the past, an American Christian would’ve killed a Vietnamese Christian and that an Iraqi Christian has no doubt killed an American Christian, all in the name of Civil Religion. We would see the entire world as the potential “Kingdom of God,” one that can’t be divided by national, man-made boundaries.
Obvious questions arise when statements like these are made. One I’ve heard often is, “What would you do then if someone was about to harm your wife and children?” To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what I would do in that situation, but I can’t imagine that I would passively sit back and do nothing. Another question I’ve heard is, “Shouldn’t Hitler have been wiped out?” One thing is for certain… he should’ve been intensely prayed for. The Apostle Paul was no better of a man than Hitler was. He was the self-proclaimed, “Chief Sinner and Murderer of Christians” prior to his conversion!
The point here is that too often, both nationally and personally, we take matters into our own hands first and then beg and plead with God to bless our efforts. We can go back and forth on these things, but the one thing we can all agree on is that Jesus modeled for us a “Ministry of Reconciliation” and a “Peace-Giving Lifestyle.”
This then poses another question. If we are a historic peace church, then why are we no different from other denominations when it comes to our internal “warring” and squabbles, our church splits and our inability to, as Paul says, “Live at peace with everyone?” (Romans 12:18) Why is it easier to agree with this in doctrine than in practice? I do believe that the way of Jesus is the way of Peace. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus tells us it is a blessed thing to be a “peacemaker.” In other words, we will experience a deep sense of satisfaction and joy if we are peacemakers and we’ll be labeled as “children of God.” I wonder then, when will we live out this lifestyle of peace in all of life, not just in convenient, isolated segments?
In his book, Just in Time, Lynn Miller tells the story of the time he and his wife were doing Voluntary Service in Chicago. As they were walking toward their church, they were held up at gunpoint with the thief yelling, “Give me your money or I’ll shoot!” Lynn quickly told him he didn’t have any money and then asked the man if he would want to come to the church with them. He said maybe they could find something there for him. The thief shouted again, “Give me the money!” His wife then told him they needed to visit a woman whose mother had just died. They then turned and started to walk down a narrow alley that led to the back of the church. Halfway down the alley, Lynn turned around and said, “Come on” and motioned the gunman to follow them. The gunman just stood there, confused. He then turned and ran away. It was later revealed that this couple regularly prays ahead of time for nonviolent responses to potential violent acts committed against them.